On a surface level, Julia Ducournau’s Raw may appear as a disturbing horror film about one woman learning to embrace her cannibal palette. Look a little closer, however, and you’ll see there’s a story about coming into your own as a woman. When Justine first arrives at college, she’s very unsure of herself in the atmosphere of hard partying and even harder hazing. She’s quiet, shy, and has doubts about being able to cut it as a student.
Justine’s older sister Alexia, having already been in the same college for some time, lets her in on how you have to be sure of yourself in order to get anywhere in college, but Alexia has to let Justine find her true self on her own. What Justine discovers about herself is that she is a cannibal. Even when aware that she is a cannibal, Justine is still afraid of not being socially accepted at her tough school. But the school itself also drives her to this point, forcing her to eat raw rabbit kidney. This may seem like a gross act, but not to Justine. She craves more meat, preferably raw, slowly knowing what it is she desires.
With the artistic take on idolizing flesh, Justine’s journey is that of a sexual awakening that seems strange but also relatable. As her habit continues, she still seems unsure and animalistic in satisfying her urges, having no control. Will Justine be happier as a cannibal? Perhaps, but writer/director Julia Ducournau always keeps us distant as an observer where we’re not meant to fully judge whether or not we want Justine to embrace this darker edge of herself. And by the end of the film, there’s a surreal sensation that maybe Justine isn’t alone and that there may even be peace in accepting who you are, for better or worse.
Mark McPherson is a previous video store clerk who has been writing about film for many years. He writes movie articles for MoviesWithMark.com, FilmIniquiry.com, and TwinCitiesGeek.com. He has also self-published books on movie history including The Great Animated Movies and Pixels to Premieres: A History of Video Game Movies.